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Protesters Disrupt Alameda Tree Lighting Ceremony

A protester halts traffic on Park Street at Santa Clara, December 6, 2014. (Action Alameda News)

A protester halts traffic on Park Street at Santa Clara, December 6, 2014. (Action Alameda News)

A protest, the stated aim of which was to demonstrate solidarity with those across the country demanding justice for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and an end to police violence, disrupted a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Alameda City Hall tonight, and traffic along Park Street.

News of the planned event surfaced this afternoon on an Alameda-focused Facebook group, where a link to a call to action was published.

The notice, published on the Indy Bay website, said, “the City of Alameda is an island city running parallel to Oakland. Alameda Police is widely known for racial profiling. The city is also notorious for housing discrimination and racial inequality in education,” and promised a non-violent action to disrupt the event.

A call to a telephone number published in the notice was answered by Rasheed Shabazz, who declined to disclose specific plans for the protest.

Starting at around 5pm tonight, about two dozen demonstrators, some with signs reading “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Black Lives Matter,” gathered on the steps of the Carnegie Library.

Lester Dixon, of Alameda, one of the demonstrators gathered on the steps of the library, told Action Alameda News, “I came here to make a point about how I feel about the Eric Garner thing, and what’s happening over the rest of the United States.” He said he planned to demonstrate peacefully.

Another demonstrator, a Caucasian man (Correction: Sé followed-up to say he identifies as genderqueer) from Alameda who gave his name only as Shane Sé, said, “It’s about white folks steppin’ up. It’s about us deciding that it’s on us to change the system because black lives matter. Murder is murder.”

As dancers dressed as Christmas trees finished their routine in a section of the street cordoned off in front of City Hall, protesters entered the area, led by an African-American man dressed in a Santa Claus costume, and marched, chanting “Black Lives Matter” as a live band on stage cranked up Christmas songs.

After several minutes, the group took to the southwest corner of Oak Street and Central Avenue, just a few yards from an assembly of six to eight police officers, and chanted “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”

After a while, they moved across Oak Street to the opposite corner, and subsequently entered the street on Santa Clara Avenue, marched to Park Street, whereupon they turned south, blocking traffic as they marched to Encinal, where the march broke up shortly after 6pm.

The demonstrators did not succeed in shutting down the tree lighting ceremony – “shut it down for Mike Brown” has been a common refrain at similar protests – which continued without any acknowledgement of the protest.

Earlier in the day, a few parents on Facebook said that the threat of disruption and potential for violence would deter them from attending the event.

However, the greatest threat of violence observed by Action Alameda News came from a twenty-something man, blocked by protesters, aggressively accelerating his sports car west on Alameda Avenue from Park Street to detour around the protest.

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